Spotlight: Cyber Security Readiness for the Electricity and Energy Industries

When your power goes out, you recognize just how many things you use every day rely on energy. From phones to WiFi to air conditioning and heat, our homes and offices almost entirely rest on this silo of critical infrastructure.

While we may not think of the energy sector as being a significant cyber vulnerability (we don’t read about a lot of breaches on this sector in the news media), it is not only of intrinsic importance to a functioning society but all other sectors that make up the nation’s critical infrastructure rely on electricity. According to the Council on Foreign Relations, the U.S power system has evolved into a highly complex enterprise with:

  • 3,300 utilities that work together
  • 200,000 miles of high-voltage transmission lines
  • 55,000 substations
  • 5 million miles of lines that bring power to millions of homes and businesses

There are not many documented cases of a successful power grid attack, but the first known instance occurred on December 23, 2015 in Ukraine. Hackers were able to compromise information systems of three energy distribution companies in Ukraine and temporarily disrupt electric supply to the end customers. A year later, Russian hackers targeted a transmission level substation, blacking out part of Kiev.

Although there may not be many examples of historical energy facility hacks, these kinds of attacks are no longer a theoretical concern. In 2014, Admiral Michael Rogers, director of the National Security Agency, testified before Congress that China and other countries likely had the capability to shut down the U.S. power grid. An adversary with the capability to exploit vulnerabilities within the electric utility silo may be motivated to carry out such an attack under a variety of circumstances, and it seems increasingly likely that the next war will be cyber.

Cyber Security Readiness for Electricity and Energy

So what can we do to prepare ourselves? Understanding that cyber security is the responsibility of everyone, not just CISOs or those in IT, helps ensure that everyone is participating in strengthening an organization’s cyber readiness.

Utilizing AI, persistent learning, and gamified training to upskill your team will ensure that you are prepared for any looming threat.

Electricity is of incredible importance to the country and the world, the remainder of our infrastructure would crumble without it. Building a culture of awareness and education around cyber security will help protect us from a domino effect of failing infrastructure. Continuously improving security posture is vital to defending ourselves against attacks that threaten our critical infrastructure.

Photo by Gerrit Vermeulen on Unsplash

Kickstarting Your Cyber Security Career Path

Jumpstarting a new cyber security career path can feel like a daunting initiative, however, it may be more attainable than you think. By utilizing online cyber resources and persistent learning exercises, you can start learning everything you need to know to understand career options and land your dream job.

Virtual machines and digital libraries are great places to start on your cyber learning journey. A virtual machine is a software program or operating system that exhibits the behavior of a separate computer and is capable of performing tasks such as running applications and programs like a separate computer. This enables you to create multiple independent VMs environments on one physical machine and it aids in detecting things like malware and ransomware attacks. A digital library is an online platform that offers a diverse collection of cyber security learning objectives, along with an online database of digital materials like videos and reports.

Here are some resources that can help you pursue a career in cyber security:

  • Oracle VM VirtualBox – this powerful virtualization product is for enterprise as well as home personal use. This is the best VM for home users and can be run on a multitude of operating systems.
  • Kali Linux – this is an open source tool used in information security training and penetration testing services. Kali Linux is one tool available for use in our Project Ares platform for offensive skill building and practice.
  • Security Onion Virtual Machine – this free and open sourced Linux distribution aids in intrusion detections, enterprise security monitoring, and log management. Security Onion is also available in Project Ares.
  • Flare Virtual Machine – a freely available and open sourced Windows-based program that offers a fully configured platform with a comprehensive collection of Windows security tools.
  • Cybrary – this community based digital library gives you the ability to collaborate in an open source way and create an ever-growing catalog of online courses and experiential tools to learn all things cyber security from offensive, defensive and governance.
  • Clark Cybersecurity Library – a digital library that hosts a diverse collection of cyber security learning objectives from Intro to Cyber to Adversarial Thinking. It is a high-quality and high-availability repository for curricular resources in the cyber education community.

From entry level positions to cyber security professionals, digital libraries help in understanding cyber concepts and virtual machines allow learners to apply and hone cyber skills that security professionals use on the job such as risk management, information systems security, and network security.

To complete your well-rounded cyber education, pairing these tools with hands-on practice in cyber range like Project Ares is key.

Circadence’s own Project Ares uses gamified cyber range learning environments to emulate immersive and mission-specific network threats for a variety of cyber security work roles and job titles. The Project Ares platform is constantly evolving with new battle rooms and missions to address the latest threats and includes targeted training scenarios to learn specific skillsets. This platform also offers digital badges in its Academy license, which represent credentials that can be used to indicate a variety of accomplishments and skills. These are a great way to show a prospective employer just how much you’ve taught yourself about cyber security (and you can add them to your social profiles so prospective employers can see your skills)!

From concept learning to skills application, gamification paired with persistent, hands-on training in virtual environments is an ideal approach to understanding the ins and outs of complex cyber networks and how to recognize potential vulnerabilities in today’s evolving threat landscape. Pairing Project Ares with any of the aforementioned resources is a sure-fire way to kick off your cyber security career and prepare for security certifications!

Photo by Andras Vas on Unsplash